Traveling by helicopter was common for Kobe Bryant
During his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, it was common for Bryant to travel by helicopter from his Orange County, California, home to Lakers games at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. It helped him avoid two-hour travel times through L.A.’s notorious traffic while also keeping his body fresh.
Kobe Bryant was no stranger to helicopter travel.
During his career with the Los Angeles Lakers,it was common for Bryant to travel by helicopter from his Orange County, California, home to Lakers games at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. It helped him avoid two-hour travel times through L.A.’s notorious traffic while also keeping his body fresh.
“It’s a nice dash of glitz, a touch of showbiz that goes well with the Hollywood sign in the hazy distance,” J.R. Moehringer wrote for GQ magazine in 2010. “But sexy as it might seem, Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It’s no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes. Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can’t sit in a car for two hours.”
Bryant, his daughter Gianna, 13,and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff.
In 2017, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who was Bryant’s agent, told The Los Angeles Times a story about riding in a helicopter with Bryant. Bryant had the pilot fly military maneuvers and shut off the engine.
”My life was flashing before my eyes,” Pelinka told The Times. ”I almost had a heart attack. Kobe’s just sitting there calm and collected.”
On Sunday, flight records show the helicopter departed near Santa Ana, California, around 9 a.m. PT and was “last seen” at 9:45 a.m. near Van Nuys, about 16 miles east of Calabasas, according to FlightAware flight tracking.
This was Bryant’s famed “Mamba Chopper,” according to an April 2016 Getty Images photo that shows Bryant next to the helicopter whose tail number matches that of the helicopter that crashed Sunday. Government records show the helicopter was owned by Island Express Holding Corp., a helicopter flight charter business based in Van Nuys.
But Bryant could have been leasing it or had some other kind of arrangement for his personal use. The photo shows the Black Mamba logo on the helicopter, a brand and reference to his nickname.
Flight records show the same helicopter made frequent trips around Los Angeles County and Orange County, where Bryant has lived. Since Jan. 1, the helicopter made 42 trips, including 16 that landed at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, according to FlightAware.
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, manufactured it in 1991, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. An executive at Island Express Holding Corp. didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.